A new innovative glasshouse rolling gutter system installed by high-tech horticultural facilities specialists CambridgeHOK is to help a long-established fresh herb business remain at the cutting-edge of the industry for growing the very best produce.
The new system, designed and installed for O'Hanlon Fresh Herbs in County Wicklow, Ireland, is now fully operational and helping the business grow improved quality produce such as mint and basil.
The Nutrient Flow Treatment gutter system is a pioneering semi-automated method of irrigation, channeling water directly under the crop roots, with the gutters moving sequentially as the herbs grow, allowing them the space they need to flourish.
The project was the 4th phase of glasshouses built at O'Hanlon Fresh Herbs by the CambridgeHOK team. It allowed crops to begin their growth in a propagation area where they sit in benches for 14 days before entering a 14-day progression through the gutter system.
Re-using the water
Stuart Neylon, project manager for CambridgeHOK, said it had been a first for the business but adds another system of growing which enhances the quality of crop while also offering sustainability benefits. "The great thing about this system is that all the unused water is recycled through the system, so it's a very efficient use of water, which is important to any growing business," he said.
"The gutters move and space out as the plants grow, making their way along three bays, each containing 25 plants per gutter. This ensures that yields are optimized as plant spacing is optimized through the grow cycle."
"When they reach the point where they are complete and ready to be harvested, 75 gutters are harvested at one end of the process each day, with 75 more starting at the beginning of the process."
As part of the work for O'Hanlon Fresh Herbs, CambridgeHOK also installed lighting systems, irrigation systems, heating, and screening. "It has been a really interesting project to work on, and it is another string to our bow in being able to offer the very best growing solutions and systems to customers," added Mr. Neylon.
"The team at O'Hanlon Fresh Herbs has quickly adapted to the new system, and it has been great to see it delivering produce of the highest quality. "This was always the aim as the combination of the growing system and the stable indoor temperature has combined to provide an ideal micro-climate for crops, producing sturdier plants from a bespoke light recipe, less water usage, better throughput, and less energy usage."
Client delighted with growing system
Tom O'Hanlon, managing director of O'Hanlon Fresh Herbs, said: "It has been a pleasure to work with the CambridgeHOK team. They have installed an innovative and cutting-edge gutter growing system, enhanced LED lights, and extended glass for our pot herb production."
"As growers, we are delighted with the product quality from the upgraded and modern LED light fittings, which are producing more robust, bushier herbs with improved leaf color and overall vigor, which also have a quicker life cycle, particularly in winter, and improved shelf life."
"The gutter system is giving us a better yield per square meter, with the glasshouse space being more fully optimized. The automatic handling removes some processes, and the system means we have to keep it running optimally to the overall benefit of the crop."
"The herbs benefit from improved air circulation and microenvironment in the leaf canopy, and in the case of basil, it has meant we have been able to remove the use of unnecessary fungicide sprays. The water containment within the gutter improves the overall usage and minimizes waste or run-off."
"The system has taken some getting used to initially, but with some handholding and technical assistance, it is now running very smoothly and giving us a commercial return on investment and better crops."
O'Hanlon Fresh Herbs was established in 1988 in a small suburban back garden from which it provided fresh potted herbs to markets. Today it operates with two acres under glass and produces more than 3 million potted herbs and over 5 million cut herb packets per year to all the main retailers as well as independent stores and food services.